The following video clip of atheist Richard Dawkins provides a rather clear perspective on the atheists’ view of meaning:
Here Dawkins tells us that he can easily answer why birds have wings “from an evolutionary standpoint.” Presumably this would involve a story of mutations, natural selection, and how wings help survival. By contrast, he tells us that the question “why do mountains exist?” is a meaningless question. We can explain mountains from the geology, but as to purpose, there is not any, so asking why? is a category mistake, like asking “what is the color of jealousy?” We can talk about biological and geological processes, but as to purpose for why mountains exist, there is none, so the questions are meaningless. Such questions, according to Dawkins, do not deserve an answer because they cannot be answered. There is no purpose, so asking about purpose is meaningless. His example of “what is the color of jealousy?’ is a good example of what logicians call a category mistake, asking a question from different categories, which produces a meaningless comparison. So Dawkins view here is consistent with what he has said elsewhere, namely ““The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Dawkins can be consistent with his worldview when he can answer “why do birds have wings?” because he is actually answering how do bird wings come about? He is answering, by his own admission, how the natural processes operate that cause bird wings. He can answer how the natural processes work that cause mountains, but says that there are no purposes for mountains, so asking why they exist is as meaningless as a category mistake. There is no design, no purpose, no end goal.
Since Dawkins feels that asking existence of mountains is meaningless, then asking any question of this nature is equally meaningless. Asking ‘why do humans exist?’ or ‘why does the universe exist?’ would be equally meaningless. To the atheist, all that ultimately causes anything is chemistry and physics, which have natural processes and nothing more.
Meaning, on the other hand, involves a mind that is distinct from chemistry and physics. Meaning is necessary for purpose, and neither of these is possible without something beyond natural processes. Since the atheist only believes in natural processes, there is no ultimate meaning, no purpose, no ability to ask why. The atheist can deal in the realm of temperature, pressure, motion, force, and the related calculations that measure these, but can never assign any meaning to the results of their calculations, for there is no meaning and purpose in the universe. When mankind wonders about ultimate purpose and asks the question “why am I here?” the only answer that the atheist can provide is “because you walked here from over there.” My experience with atheists is that they almost always equivocate and sneak meaning in the side door somehow, for all humans have a difficult time accepting that there is no meaning or purpose in the universe. In this video, Dawkins claims that some questions are meaningful while some are meaningless, which implies meaning exists. Dawkin’s atheist viewpoint is therefore self-referentially inconsistent.
The Christian, by contrast, admits right up front that there is more to the universe than physics and chemistry, that minds and meaning do indeed exist, and that we have ultimate purpose in life because there is an ultimate that exists, God. Without God, Dawkins is quite correct that there is no meaning in the question “why do we exist?” But with an infinite God, we have infinite meaning in the universe.